Anywho, we were going to be traveling through Crystal River and this is one of only two places that allow swimming with manatees in Florida so we popped on in and set up a tour. The bonus was that Captain Tim let us boondock at the marina, too! Which was really nice since we needed to be there super early.
Our spot for the night was nice at Pete's Pier!
Captain Tim was a great guy and environmentalist who truly cares about the manatee and its habitat. He works hard to protect the manatee and also provide the close encounter experience that we had without negative impact on these awesome creatures!
When we set up our tour, we had to watch a video on the do's and don'ts of swimming with the manatees and also get a little education on these creatures which we did the night before we went since we were setting out on the early morning cruise. Which I am glad we did!
We met Captain Tim and boarded the pontoon boat and made our way to the spring. Only one other boat was at the spring before we were, we had already donned our wetsuits before leaving the pier so we were ready to get in the water upon arrival.
The baby we interacted with!!!
Isn't he adorable?
The manatees enjoy being scratched and you are allowed to do that, with one hand only. You cannot chase after them, they have to come to you and you cannot restrain them in any way or it's a big fine.We were in the water no time at all when that baby calf was in our vicinity and playful, it was A.M.A.Z.I.N.G. I was so enamored, it truly was a once in a lifetime experience. We stayed and played and scratched this little guy for quite awhile, his mother even swam through and he still stayed. Others joined us though and he seemed to shy away so we swam over to another area to check things out. This was where we interacted with a pretty big manatee near a dock. It was just us and him for a very long time. He enjoyed our scratching him and we had quite the time with him. He rolled and flopped for us. Eventually we worked our way back over to near our boat and guide and the baby manatee was back. This time he seemed to really enjoy MiRV cause he got a kiss and just kept nuzzling him, it was the neatest!
While the manatees enjoyed the springs warm waters, warm is relative as I was soon cold with blue lips and starting to shiver. Even though the water temp was around 70* the air temp was in the 50s, it was definitely chilly but worth every minute. However, that hot chocolate once I got back on the boat was some of the best hot chocolate I've had in a long time! This was definitely something I will not soon forget.
The manatees in Florida are the West Indian manatee, they are susceptible to the cold but their biggest threat is boat motor propellers, getting caught in flood gates, swallowing litter, fishing hooks and monofilament line and getting caught in crab traps. They are also occasionally poached!
Manatees are soft and somewhat spongy feeling, they have sparse course hairs on their body. They can weight up to 3500 pounds and reach 13 feet in length. They also have a 50 year plus lifespan. They are vegetarians, too! I love the manatee!